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Newswire – July 17, 2018

POLITICS AS USUAL. As if on cue to lend credence to the wisdom of the Supreme Court’s Janus v. AFSCME decision (which frees individuals from being forced to fund unions they don’t support) last week’s AFT annual meeting more closely resembled the quadrennial national party conventions than a gathering of teachers devoted to education and learning. Not only was the AFT’s laundry list of resolutions laced with criticism of the current administration, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and current Senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders all showed up to rally the troops and lead the charge toward political victory in November and beyond!!! Also joining in the AFT’s pep rally and cheerleading tryouts were noted labor bosses, Lee Saunders (AFSCME), Lily Eskelsen-Garcia, (NEA), and Mary Kay Henry (SEIU). Notably absent – any talk of meaningful reform of schools and everyone whose ideas, opinions, or political leanings don’t conform to the union leaders’ views of America.

THE WRONG RESPONSE. Of course much of the AFT’s focus was on the biggest issue of concern to parents and children across the country: the impact of Janus on the union! Leading the way in the torches-and-pitchforks rally was AFT president Randi Weingarten who was on a tear orating, among other things, about how “They [the infamous and dangerous “they”] have attacked us and perverted and weaponized the First Amendment, the freedom of speech in a way that no one recognizes.”

SCHOOLYARD SCUFFLE. There’s never been any love lost between Nevada’s competing teachers unions – Clark County Education Association (CCEA) and the new National Education Association of Southern Nevada (NEA-SN) – but now their relationship has devolved into a playground hair-pulling affair complete with name-calling and fit-throwing. The problem comes down to who’s taking members away from whom and is best explained by an impartial observer who says it’s all about money. “I hate to be so crass to say it that way, but if you lose 10,000 members that’s money that’s gone.”  Offers another observer:  “The only word that comes to my mind is incompetency.”  Oh well. If nothing else, at least the unions’ priorities are nicely aligned with their national counterparts.

A BIG CHANGE IN THE BIG EASY. After hurricane Katrina back in 2005 Louisiana abolished its old, failing, school system in favor of a system of charter schools. So how has it worked out? As The New York Times reports “…academic progress has been remarkable. Performance on every kind of standardized test has surged.”  A caution is in order, however. The Time’s piece was sparked by the state returning schools to “local control” – to the Orleans Parish School Board, for example which has historically opposed giving any power to schools or autonomy to individuals – and threatens to be a step toward a return to the structure, and mindset, that doomed New Orleans students to violent and chronically failing schools before Katrina.

NOW THERE’S A THOUGHT. A well-reasoned piece out of New Mexico where an op-ed – “Bureaucracy stifles innovation at NM schools” – points to the need for an education system that provides “innovative solutions that fit local needs…we should be asking, what does your local community need from its graduates and what experiences will prepare them for the future? Or, how can we give students real-life internship experiences that teach students the skills they need to be prepared in our ever-changing workforce?”  Here, here!

THOSE DARN PARENTS. It won’t come as a shock to learn that as enrollment in charter schools in North Carolina rises, and attendance in the state’s traditional public schools falls – it’s down, for the third straight year, to 81 percent and falling fast – the status quo sees a conspiracy afoot to “dismantle public schools.”  But when you open the gates and people can leave – and they do – it says something about the existing offerings. Advocates of traditional public school shouldn’t complain but figure out how to keep students without calling parents undemocratic or accusing them of trying to dismantle the public schools simply because they their kids educated to their own needs.